Posted by Louisa Horne on Jun 27, 2019
Top ten reasons…with some reflections from Hamburg
  1. It puts the “I” in RI in a very impactful way.  Over 25,000 people from almost 200 countries in the same place is pretty cool.  That’s what we saw in Hamburg and next year in Hawaii will be similar.  When the flags from all the countries are brought in by youth and each country is introduced, there are roars of pride from the crowd… and there are country names many people have never heard of.  It’s a bit like the United Nations or Olympics and is totally impressive!  We had over 30 people from our district in Hamburg and in almost a week, as we were attending five plenary sessions and about six breakout sessions, and wandering the exhibit halls and streets, I did not ever see some of them!  I did meet people from many other places and learned about amazing work being done around the world.   
  1. It is an opportunity to hear from some amazing plenary speakers – often including Nobel prize winners and world leaders – with a few amazing inspirational speakers thrown in!  We had some good ones in Hamburg and you can see most of them on video – google or to go the Rotary Vimeo and you will find all of the plenary speakers.  They are generally ~20 minutes long – perfect for club meeting programs!  What a great way to experience the learning over the summer – you could watch one at each meeting over the summer!  You can hear from outgoing President Barry Rassin, new President Mark Maloney and next year’s President Holger Knaack – as well as Chair of the Trustees Brenda Cressey, General Secretary John Hewko, and some great motivational speakers. Have a look for a young Rotaractor from the UK – he did a great presentation on “Dogoodery”.
  2. Huge learning opportunities at over 100 breakout sessions on every topic you can imagine – from leadership and meeting management to water projects and micro-finance – practical sessions with people who have done cool things.  The only challenge  is choosing what to go to – the sessions are 60, 90 and 120 minutes long and they overlap – and because there are so many people, it means the facilities are huge and there may be a long walk between them so strategic planning of breakout choice is important.  Some have long lines too – the one that Doug Logan, Alex Twells and I facilitated this year had as many people waiting outside in line as the hundreds that were inside participating!
  3. Learning at the House of Friendship – which is really like a trade show – hundreds of booths about projects looking for partners (like our own Dr. Doug MacMillan had on “Helping Babies Survive”) where you can have in depth conversations with people doing amazing things.  Or buy a shirt at one of many vendors… or learn about one of the many fellowship groups (those are the special interest groups on everything from wine or scotch drinkers, golf, fabric arts, music, sailing and motorcycling to metal music).  It takes hours to do this place justice and if you get into project conversations, you could be there all day!
  4. Connecting the world – the host city is crawling with Rotarians and they are all your friends.  In an outdoor café, pub or on a bus, you can have a conversation with someone wearing the big registration tag and immediately find a dinner mate or a recommendation for a restaurant, or a contact for a new collaborative project – or maybe an invitation to someone’s home.  It’s amazing.  It feels like the whole city revolves around Rotary for a week – with flags of welcome at City Hall to free transit passes, Hamburg rolled out the welcome mat.
  5. Pre-conference events – there were special sessions for Youth leaders, a one-day conference for Water and Sanitation Rotary Action Group (WASRAG) and a Peace Symposium before the convention itself began.  Elva and I attended the WASRAG session and it was great – practical sessions on establishing good projects and some world-class speakers.  Many people also participate in tours before or after the convention – or plan their own travel in the area of the convention.  Many of our attendees planned vacation time around the event – and some of us did a mini-friendship exchange with Rotarians in Estonia and Finland – this amazing experience is an example of what can happen when you connect with Rotarians around the world!
  6. Hear from RI leaders – there are special meals and events with RI leaders where you can hear more about their strategic direction etc. and have an opportunity to interact with Rotary leaders from around the world.  That can be fun – Beacon met the RI President Elect, Holger Knaack, as well as a past RI President Frank Devlin – they had quite a chat.
  7. Exercise while you explore – these events take up a lot of space and there’s a lot of walking!  And there can be some great exploring in the host city – people tracking their steps had some great big numbers!
  8. FUN!  It is super fun to attend host committee events (that’s the local group that organizes social and cultural events) and fellowship group events – most of them have a special event sometime during the convention so you have to plan carefully!  We went to an amazing concert in the new Hamburg philharmonic hall – and we attended a club hosted event at a museum park which was fabulous.  Others went to the wine fellowship event and some of our colleagues from 7810 went on the Metalhead fellowship cruise!  Something for everyone.
  9. Get to know some other Rotarians from our district – we had a fun gathering on the night before the opening for our district, and we invited the 7810 participants and a few other guests.  Over 30 people attended a fun session at a German fraternity where we experienced the ritual of the organization and had a great meal.  Our guests included former NS Premier Rodney MacDonald who was volunteering at a booth about First Nations initiatives in Port Hawkesbury.  Also, many of us rent Airbnb or other apartments for Rotary events and share space with colleagues.  It’s a great opportunity to get to know some other Rotarians better – we had 6 Rotarians in our flat in Hamburg and it was fun! 
Honolulu next year from June 6-10 will have the same opportunities and hopefully we’ll have a good crew from 7820 at it.  A handful of people have already registered – and the “earlybird” fee is in effect until the end of December.  Some people have already booked an Airbnb condo near the Honolulu Convention Centre to keep costs down – check out the options!